Slip and fall lawsuits are probably one of the most maligned lawsuits in popular culture. The argument is always made that if the injured person had just been paying attention that they wouldn't have been hurt. In other words, it's your own damn fault if you get hurt.
But what about when you can't tell if a surface is dangerous or not?
This can also be the case with stairs or stairwells. Dawn Barrett of Philadelphia's East Falls Neighborhood filed suit against Fishtown's Walking Fish Theatre because she fell and injured herself on an "unsecured stairwell with no railing and a collapsible door," according to The Pennsylvania Record.
Barrett's claim is that the theater was negligent in maintaining its premises. What is the theater's duty to its patrons?
Slip and fall accidents fall within the broader ambit of premises liability. This liability stems from the duty of property-owners and renters to maintain their property and keep visitors safe from known or discoverable dangers.
In a slip and fall case, the ability of the property-owner to warn or fix a dangerous condition is balanced against the carelessness of the person who fell. To prove that the property owner knew of the dangerous condition, you have to show that they created the condition, knew it existed and failed to correct it, or the condition was there long enough that they should have discovered it.
Here, based on the description of an "unsecured stairwell with no railing," it sounds like the theater might have some liability for Barrett's injuries. However, there is still a question of why Barrett was on these steps. If Barrett wasn't supposed to be on the stairs, she might not be able to recover.
As with any lawsuit, it won't be resolved until all the facts are known. But to be safe, you might not want to use any stairs that have a collapsible door if you are in Fishtown.
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